SAN MATEO (03/03/2000) - MANY DATABASE users should soon be able to centralize file management directly in their database engine, as one of the more highly touted features of Oracle Corp.'s 8i database is nearing completion and one of its chief rivals is preparing similar technology.
Oracle's Internet File System (iFS), which promises to centralize corporate data by storing it in Oracle 8i and making it available through a variety of interfaces, is currently in its second beta test and expected to ship this summer, more than a year after its first due date.
With the release pending, the question now turns to whether the feature is truly what customers need.
Merv Adrian, vice president of research management at Giga Information Group in San Jose, Calif., said the likely answer is no. But one beta tester deemed the feature useful in some instances.
"I don't know that we'd store our actual source files in the database, but it does seem a perfect fit for some repository kind of functions," said the iFS beta user. "Initially it wasn't the direction I wanted to head, but it is a good product, and if they can bring it out in a way that is easy to use, we'll implement it."
The challenge of getting it right and making iFS easy and valuable to implement is what Oracle officials point to as the reason behind the feature's numerous delays.
"It's essential that we get this right because, if people don't get a good experience out of the door, it will damage the promise of having all your data in one place," said Jeremy Burton, vice president, server marketing at Oracle.
Another company that is working to get such functionality right is Oracle's chief rival, Microsoft. At the recent Windows 2000 launch, Paul Flessner, senior vice president of SQL Server development, said the company has been working on technology similar to iFS and could have shipped the feature with SQL 2000 when it launches later this year. Instead, the company chose to wait, and in the meantime will rely on its current offering.
"Some users want to store files in their database and other users don't, and we feel we have a more open platform for when they don't," Flessner said.
One SQL customer who seems to fit that mold is Tim Halley, director of technology development for online music provider Launch.com, in Santa Monica, Calif. Halley said that, although the idea of storing everything in the database is an attractive proposition, it is one that users must consider carefully.
"Sticking everything in is something you want to look at very closely, and it's attractive from the 2,000 foot level, but the reality is your database is the most contentious piece of software you have, and you need to make sure it's not a bottleneck," Halley said.
Oracle Corp., in Redwood Shores, Calif., can be reached at www.oracle.com.
Microsoft Corp., in Redmond, Wash., can be reached at www.microsoft.com.
Oracle (still) readies iFS
Originally slated for delivery almost a year ago with Oracle's 8i database, iFS is now in beta 2 and supports multiple file types.
* Web pages
* Word processing files